This past week in New York the Open Society Foundation hosted its Innovation & Impact Forum for Black Male Achievement, “What Winning Looks Like: Investing in What Works”. This one-day convening took a deep DIVE into the state of black male achievement and its future, and was organized by the hard-working folks at OSF’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement.
The morning kicked off with Mayor Michael Bloomberg taking the stage and candidly expressing why the city of New York was deepening its investment in black male achievement as well as why he was making a personal investment of $30 million (via Bloomberg Philanthropies) in this campaign.
Following Mayor Bloomberg was a panel discussion, which included George Soros, founder of Open Society Foundations; Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone; Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment; and Alexis McGill Johnson, Executive Director of American Values Institute. The panelists engaged in a rich dialogue on why this particular issue resonated with them and what they considered as the next steps to improve the outcomes for black males.
The nearly 200 attendees and countless online viewers also had an opportunity to hear about what strategies and initiatives were currently taking place to advance the campaign. Shawn Dove, Campaign Manager of Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO of PolicyLink, formally announced the launch of the Leadership and Sustainability Institute (LSI), a national membership network that seeks to ensure the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors committed to improving the life outcomes and creating systemic change for black men and boys (The Kapor Foundation is joining a host of other foundations that are funding the LSI. Through our support, organizations that are connected to the College Bound Brotherhood will receive direct support from the LSI to help sustain their work, get connected to other advocacy and service programs, and participate in a series of capacity-building seminars and workshops).
The afternoon proved to be equally engaging. Folks participated in breakout seminars and had intimate discussions with practitioners, educators, and community leaders about What Winning Looks Like. Colleagues who are doing extremely valuable work and launching new initiatives to advance the work of black men and boys were recognized; with some receiving awards.
The day was without a doubt powerful. I would describe it as a perfectly balanced elixir consisting of a few scoops of like-minded change agents – philanthropic, policy advocates, and community leaders, a thickening of political and celebrity presence, a sprinkle of spirited fellowship, and a cherry topping of awards and recognition of folks who are advancing this work.
I left the forum with three things on my mind: a great sense of confidence of the direction and leadership of, and the support for black male achievement; how can we take bold steps to advance this work knowing that the investments and support needed to move the needle are being met with a sense of urgency; and how in the world we were able to fit so much rich, inspiring, and purposeful content into one day (still figuring that one out).
Thank you George Soros, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mayor Michael Nutter, Susan L. Taylor, Dr. Robert Ross, Geoffrey Canada, and many many more. Because of your visible presence and voicing your commitment to improve the conditions of black males I am re-energized, mentally nourished, and ready to continue doing my part in this larger movement.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Shawn Dove and the entire Open Society Foundation staff for their incredible leadership and work to ensure that black male achievement remains a priority. We look to you as the captain of this vessel and will continue to support you and your efforts in this work. Together we will!